A Gathering of Graces – Part One

The Dukes: (from left to right) 1. James Graham, 8th Duke of Montrose; 2. David Manners, 11th Duke of Rutland; 3. John Seymour, 19th Duke of Somerset; 4. Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland; 5. Andrew Russell, 15th Duke of Bedford; 6. Edward Fizalan-Howard, 18th Duke of Norfolk; 7. Torquhil Campbell, 18th Duke of Argyll; 8. Maurice FitzGerald, 9th Duke of Leinster; 9. Murray Beauclerk, 14th Duke of St Albans; 10. Arthur Wellesey, 8th Duke of Wellington.

In celebration of its 300th birthday last year, Tatler magazine rounded up some of the UK’s twenty-four surviving Dukes to a lunch in St. James’s, and ten accepted the invitation. Some of the remaining twenty-four Graces were either living abroad or too frail to make the journey. The group who attended was still the largest gathering of dukes since the Coronation of 1953 and until 1975 a quarter of the dukes were all related to each other, through either bloodlines or marriage. They are apparently still thick as thieves – the water served at the luncheon was bottled at the Duke of Marlborough’s estate, Blenheim.

Here is an introduction to those ducal guests and a bit on their family history.

James Graham, 8th Duke of Montrose – date of creation 1707. Other titles include Viscount Dundaff and Lord Aberuthven, Mugdock and Fintrie. The current Duke is also Chief of the Graham clan.

Family Pile: Auchmar, near Loch Lomond.

A look at an 1871 issue of The Academy is enough to sum up the family’s historical importance. It reads in part – Mr. Frascr reports on the highly important muniments belonging to the Duke of Montrose. They include charters from King William the Lion, and subsequent Scottish sovereigns to successive representatives of the family of Graham. The papers relating to the first Marquis of Montrose embrace the correspondence with him of Charles I. and II., Queen Henrietta Maria, Elizabeth Queen of Bohemia, James Duke of York, Prince Rupert, Prince William of Orange, and others. The letters of Charles I., which are nearly all holograph, were written from various places during the Civil War, and show the great difficulties in which the king often found himself. The correspondence of his sister, Elizabeth of Bohemia, is marked by her characteristic wit and vivacity. The papers connected with the trial of Montrose and his companions, the depositions of witnesses concerning his invasion of Scotland, and the battle of Tippermuir in Perthshire; the petitions of the Ecclesiastical Courts for the execution of his imprisoned adherents; the acts and proceedings of the Privy Council and the Committee of Estates to enforce subscription to the Covenant, all throw strong light on the condition of Scotland in those stormy times. There is also an extensive correspondence of the first Duke of Montrose, who was greatly instrumental in accomplishing the Union between Scotland and England. In addition to the Montrose Papers proper, the present duke possesses the Lennox and the Menteith collections, which are scarcely of less historical importance.

Holdings – 8,800 acres valued at around £1 million in 2001.


David Manners, 11th Duke of Rutland – date of creation 1703. Additional titles: Marquess of Granby and Baron Roos of Belvoir.

Family pile: Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire

History: While the main seat, Belvoir, is a magnificent 365-room pile with an underground railway and £100 million of art, the family also owns Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, widely recognised as one of Britain’s finest medieval and Tudor manor houses. A previous Marquess of Granby (later the third duke) was a popular soldier and helped many of his men with their retirement, hence the number of pubs called the Marquess of Granby. The present castle is the third incarnation of the property. In 1799 the Fifth Duke of Rutland, then aged 21, married 20 year old Elizabeth Howard from Castle Howard in Yorkshire. She said that she would prefer to have a more traditional castle with towers, turrets and battlements, and so in the following thirty years the previous castle was rebuilt to the very fine Gothic Revival Castle that stands there today, complete with a great deal of fine Regency furniture, and a fabulous collection of fine art.

The Humours of Belvoir Castle — or the Morning After”, a March 1st 1799 English caricature depicting the  debauchery that took place to celebrate the 5th Duke’s 21st birthday appears above. Blackwood’s Magazine ran the following piece which tells at that Beau Brumnmell attended – “At Belvoir he was (like one of the family) and at Chevelcy, another seat of the Duke of Rutland’s, his rooms were as sacred as the Duke of York’s, who was a frequent visitor there. On the Duke of Rutland’s coming of age, in 1799, great rejoicings took place at Belvoir, and Brummell was one of the distinguished party there, among whom were the Prince of Wales, the late Duke of Argyll, the Marquis of Lorn, and the other chief fashionable people of the day.” At another time, Brummell, who w
as then in the army, was more than an hour late for a military review. When at last he did arrive, he was dressed not in military dress, but rather in the colors of the Belvoir Hunt. He apologized profusely for any inconvenience caused and explained that he’d been thrown by his horse and had lain, senseless, on the ground for well above an hour. No one was fooled as to where the Beau had been – riding with the Duke of Rutland – but the general in charge of the review was somewhat mollified about this indiscretion when Brummell invited him to Belvoir Castle for dinner that evening. If you’d like to don your pinks and join the duke’s Belvoir Hunt, click here.

Holdings: Ranked 474th in the latest Rich List, he is valued at £115 million. Estates across Leicestershire (12,000 acres), Derbyshire (10,000 acres), Cambridgeshire (4,000 acres) and Lincolnshire (2,000 acres).


John Seymour, 19th Duke of Somerset – date of creation 1547. The family pile is located in Maiden Bradley, Somerset, but is being rented out at £50,000 a year. The Duke runs the estate from a smaller house in Devon.

History: He is a descendant of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife. The first Duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour, was Jane’s brother. The family owns the fourposter oak bed in which Edward VI is said to have been conceived. To read about the life – and execution – of the first duke, click here.

Holdings: Around 5,000 acres of Somerset, including several villages.

Part Two Coming Soon!

3 thoughts on “A Gathering of Graces – Part One”

  1. Thanks for the posting so interesting. Did you know that etiquette would not allow just anyone to dress in “pinks”? Scarlet coats are worn by gentlemen who have earned colors and MFH/huntsmen (in our hunt, regardless of gender, although this is perhaps controversial ??).

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